“Tonight is a victory for the grass roots.”
- Ted Cruz after winning the GOP nomination for US Senate
Astro Turf, Texans well know, is the original term for fake grass. In political terms “Astroturf” means a fake grassroots movement funded by corporations, industry trade associations, political interests or public relations firms.
While Ted Cruz ran a great race, and this is not to take anything away from his win, beating an incumbent is always impressive. But it’s undeniable that he could have beat Dewhurst without the millions in out of state money he was given. Charles Pierce at Esquire has a great perspective on Cruz’s win, What Happened In Texas Is a Running Off the Rails.
However — and this is the big, honking However in Republican politics these days — Dewhurst’s greatest fault as a candidate apparently was that Goodhair liked him. Proximity to the Republican “establishment,” as Jim DeMint and the Club For Growth define it, was enough to doom Dewhurst as a candidate, even though the “establishment” in this case was represented by a governor who talked openly about seceding from the union. There is a temptation to believe here that Republican voters in Texas, realizing that their party is staring at an electoral abyss going forward, voted strategically for a Hispanic crackpot over a country-club sycophant. There is a temptation to believe that Texas Republicans have behaved intelligently in choosing Cruz not once, but twice. There is also a temptation to believe that Drano is Chateau Petrus. Please do try to resist it.
This is a guy who believes that Sharia law is “an enormous problem” in the country today. This is a guy who believes that George Soros is at the bottom of a secret United Nations plot to eliminate… golf. (Here, of course, Cruz is immersing himself in the paranoid Bircher fantasies regarding our old pal, Agenda 21.) This is a guy who’s a nullifier, thereby putting himself on the opposite side of the Constitution not only from Barack Obama, but from Sam Houston, for chrissakes. This is the guy that a majority of Republicans in Texas believe should represent them in the Senate and they said so, not once, but twice. They wanted a crackpot. They got a crackpot. The real power driving this election wanted them to have a crackpot, so it gave them a crackpot.
This was a triumph for out-of-state-money and out-of-state influence. Rand Paul and Sarah Palin both were more relevant to this election than the governor of Texas was. This was a signal that conservative extremism knows no limits and recognizes no national boundaries. The Tea Party now has morphed into a movement made up solely of three elements: corporate money, television hucksters, and suckers. The first of these make the other two elements possible. If you are a Republican officeholder, especially in a staunchly Republican state, and you don’t see what can happen to you in what happened to David Dewhurst, you should begin your search for a second career right now. If Rick Perry is own self doesn’t hear the bell tolling, he’s a fool. Right now, I’m betting Goodhair’s setting all his mighty mental powers to the task of trying to figure out how he can become more acceptable to the forces that beat him Tuesday night without putting on a gray uniform and personally storming up Little Round Top.
There is an alternate temptation, as I hinted at earlier, to look at Cruz’s victory as another attempt by Republicans to reach out to the growing Hispanic community that threatens to sink the party as its grumpy Caucasian base steadily dies off. The problem with this theory, of course, is that, while Cruz was storming to victory, the Republican
secretary-of-stateattorney general, a guy named Greg Abbott, remains one of the most enthusiastic voter-suppression advocates anywhere in the country. It is Abbott who went to federal court and argued in favor of essentially gutting the Voting Rights Act. If Cruz is supposed to represent a building wave of conservative Hispanic voters that is going to power the GOP over the next few decades, it’d be nice if Greg Abbott weren’t working so hard to prevent Hispanic voters from casting their ballots.
There are those innocent souls who believe that the current raging extremism that is driving the Republican party will run its course, like a fever, and then the party will take to its bed and return to cool reason, and to its role as an honest partner in the business of governing the Republic. Well, lass’ sie nach Texas kommen, kids. They are going to continue to slake their thirst with salt water, and the rest of us are going to have to live with the delusions that follow. What happened in Texas was in every sense a “runoff.” Something’s gotten into the water supply for all of us.
Certainly there was a lot of hard work from Cruz and his supporters that went into this victory. Also there was some luck (like in any victory), Dewhurst was a bad candidate, and there was a huge assist from Texas Attorney General Gregg Abbott. Whose redistricting battle pushed the primary, and resulting runoff into the Summer. Ultimately it was not a victory for the grassroots, but for the Astroturf.